[size=200]DRIFTING SUMMER DAYS[/size]
The two knights circled each other, shields raised, probing for any weakness. The cheering was like a physical thing, a wall of noise crashing again and again. Here and there across the tourney field, chirurgeons tended to fallen knights and war-witches - dragging them out of the way when the last two warriors got too close.
The sun was taking it’s toll - sweat, heat, and exhaustion - and a misstep was inevitable.
Sir Jocasta winced at the final blow - she fancied he could hear the bone breaking over the triumphant roar of the crowd. The victor was lifted up onto the shoulders of four burly yeomen, and carried to Lady de Cassilon’s pavillion at the far end of the field to receive her honours. A physick was already crouching beside the loser, and rapidly unbuckling armour, and preparing cerulean mazzarine to apply to the shattered limb.
The changeling next to her handed her a goblet of sweet golden wine, gestured towards the shadow of a nearby marquee.
“Is this what you do here, you de Cassilons?” She asked. Her companion laughed.
“No, no. We are pulling out all the stops to impress you - normally we do this kind of tourney only every few months. Or for special occasions. Or, yes, on particularly fine days. Like this, in fact.”
The shade was very welcome. Outside, the tourney was clearly over and the cheering had died down. Trestle tables were being moved onto the sward, and one of the Golden Sun troubadours was leading an enthusiastic chorus of de Cassilons and soldiers in a rendition of The Curse of Sir Colwyn marked more for it’s energy than precision.
Sir Jocasta inclined her head towards a table where a small group were gathered, deep in animated conversation. Two were smartly-dressed yeomen in their Tourney best; one an obvious noble in smart teal robes; the fourth member a tiny gnome woman with outrageously pointed ears and inhumanly bushy eyebrows … and the fifth was half again the height of a human being, with protruding tusks and orc-like features. The five were discussing - or arguing - the application of some of the magical laws to a theoretical ritual intended to enchant a castle to be resistant to comets.
“And how common is that?”
Fraser de Cassilon grinned lopsidedly. His vibrant purple eyes glittered with good humour.
“The heralds? Reasonably common. You know, of course, that we sealed our borders with Meraud’s aid? After an eternal comes to your aid like that it would seem churlish to turn them away. You understand surely - I mean …”
He inclined his chin towards a shadowed corner where an unhappy bird creature sat, shoulders hunched, nursing a bowl of wine in taloned fingers. It stared out towards the singing throng and made as if to rise - then fell back when Sir Jocasta growled at it and shook her head.
“Don’t blame me for the birds! I have no idea where they came from, nor why the general tolerates them. Dreadful, miserable things if you ask me.” The herald of Lashonar clearly heard her voice - a little too loud - and looked hurt. She ignored it.
“I might see if I can track down one of your witches,” mused Fraser. “They are sure to know and I am sure the tale will be worth the listening. But for now, let’s have some food. It is a good idea to line your stomach before the serious celebration starts - there will be some good vintages tonight I wager. You would not believe how potent wine brewed from grapes cultured in a regio of the Summer realm can be.”
He smiled impishly, but then became more serious.
“We must seem frivolous to you, Jocasta, but it is not really who we are. Tomorrow, Fleuriel will have the retainers taking inventory and seperating out anything that can be repaired. He is very good at that - and we have had more than enough time to lay in stocks of boots, and tents, and shields, and …” He waved one arm vaguely. “Things of that nature. The wounded will be cared for - in spirit as well as body - and when your army marches off to war again, it will be stronger and more than ready to face the peril and the glory of the battlefield.”
He lowered his head slightly.
“Today is a celebration - not only because you are our guests, but because of what you represent. A new start. We were hurt - all of us - by what happened but we have had a decade or more to come to terms with it. If we seem flighty, it is just … well I think we are glad to finally been able to drop that wall of mists without shaming ourselves. To be frank I find it all a little embarassing - I was barely a squire when the mists were raised. I’m glad in all honesty to see the back of it. I want to see the world! I’ve read about it in books, and heard about it from some of the older courtiers but … Casinea! Sermersuaq! Volodmartz! Feroz!”
He rolled the words around in his mouth with obvious pleasure. Sir Jocasta saw the Lashonari herald perk up and shot it a hard stare as her companion continued.
“They sound wonderful, strange and exotic. I want … well I want to get out of here for a start. Maybe I will come to Anvil with the others. But either way, I want to see the whole Empire!”
He touched her hand then. and there was more than the acustomed warmth in his eyes.
“I would like you to show it to me … I hope you would like that too.”
Sir Jocasta sipped her wine, and allowed herself a slight smile. Three months of this kind of attention … she could get used to it.
The Golden Sun - with their birdy entourage in tow - are spending the long Summer days and short Summer nights in Weirwater as guests at Spiral Castle where they can enjoy the many opportunities for diversion that the House de Cassilon has to offer. Including, but not limited to, a great deal of additional resupply.
During the Autumn equinox, a new Castellan of Spiral Castle will be appointed (the first in over a decade), and apparently a number of nobles from the estranged house will be travelling to Anvil to catch up on all the politics - and glory - they have missed during a decade behind their wall of magical mists. Whatever else happens, it will presumably make the generals along the eastern front a little happier knowing that they once again have access to the resources of the changeling castle.
Not a Tom Garnett picture. Honestly, all this swanning around in the sun … oh well, bound to be some action soon